HS2 road to slice through meadow
Wildlife trust fears damage to SSSI may be ‘irrecoverable’
WILDLIFE experts are dismayed at plans to put a road through a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) in Hillingdon.
The high speed rail project HS2 will require an access road through Frays Farm Meadows, which is a valuable nature reserve and one of only 37 SSSIs in the whole of the United Kingdom.
The road would slice the northern boundary of the site, destroying habitat and threatening the entire sedge-beds for which the meadows are designated, says London Wildlife Trust.
Mathew Frith, director of conservation at the trust said: “Politicians may trumpet the questionable economic value of HS2, but nature also has a huge value – providing benefits that cannot easily be measured or understood by the bean counters and their profit and loss sheets.
“Frays Farm Meadows is only one small slice of nature that HS2 is threatening to destroy; but this road would reverse all the work London Wildlife Trust has undertaken to restore the nature reserve over the past decade, and may damage parts of it irrecoverably.
“We will fight to save it and we would urge our supporters to petition against HS2 both locally and in its entirety.”
The road would be needed for up to six years, starting from around 2017.
It would take a total of nine years before the road could be removed and for the full extent of damage to be measured in 2026.
The nature reserve supports one of the largest remaining sedge fens in London, a rare wet grazing meadow that is home to species such as the water vole, snipe and slow-worm.
Large levels of nitrogen dioxide will be produced from the haulage road, and it is feared other pollutants will be soaked up by the wet, spongelike conditions of the meadows, potentially harming the sedge-beds entirely and irrecoverably. Aside from pollution, destruction of habitat and severe disturbance to wildlife, the access road will also cause serious disruption to London Wildlife Trust’s care of this site.
The Trust say their ability to access the reserve will be ‘significantly constrained’.
The meadows are grazed by cattle and without such grazing the habitats will rapidly become overgrown and deteriorate, threatening the many species that depend on this scarce and valuable environment.
Frays Farm Meadows is free to visit and open at all times.
MITIGATION measures suggested by STOP HS2 campaigners and Hillingdon Council have been rejected by HS2 Ltd as ‘too expensive’.
Petitioners who were ‘devastated’ by HS2 Ltd’s rejection of a tunnel to ‘bury’ the high speed rail link under the Colne Valley, asked for the company to work with TfL and the council to relocate the railhead to the West Ruislip London Underground (LUL) depot and for solutions to congestion and road access, such as the haul road to Harvil Road.
But HS2 rejected the LUL depot, on the grounds that it would ‘add £95m to the cost of the project and delay it by up to two years’.
Instead they offered to construct a haul road and signalise Swakeleys roundabout to reduce the maximum number of HGVs from 1,460 per day to 500 per day.
The haul road would connect at its southern end with the eastbound slip road adjacent to the A40 Western Avenue, pass through Uxbridge Golf Course and cross Harvil Road to enter the HS2 worksite.
But in a letter to the chairman of the Commons select committee on HS2, Robert Syms, Hillingdon Council leader Ray Puddifoot said: “It is extremely disappointing that HS2 Ltd has not worked in a co-operative way with Hillingdon or TfL in the way that we understood was required by the select committee.
“TfL’s proposals appear to have been dismissed far too readily by HS2 Ltd, without any proper objective analysis.
“While the haul road is painted in a favourable light in HS2’s document, the fact remains that TfL and Hillingdon remain to be convinced that it will solve the very real network problems due to the reliance on HGV movements.”
Lottie Jones, petitioner and campaigner for Hillingdon Against HS2, said she feels ‘deflated’ by the latest disappointments.
She said: “It was very clear, very quickly after we had finished petitioning, that it was a foregone conclusion that they weren’t going to even entertain the idea of a tunnel rather than a viaduct. Hillingdon Council and petitioners have collectively put in over six months of really hard work, collating information with all the detail and we spent hours in preparation.
“We felt, oddly enough at the time, that the committee were being sympathetic. But now we just think we’ve been duped.”
Mrs Jones is frustrated that the money being spent on mitigating factors, all added up, could have instead been spent on a tunnel.
She said: “The haul road is a solution, but it doesn’t solve all of the problem, it just moves the traffic around. On paper, HS2 Ltd makes everything sound so much better, but it’ll just totally stack up the A40, which not only affects local traffic but also one of the main routes in and out of London.”
The Stop HS2 campaigners are now calling on Boris Johnson and Nick Hurd to oppose HS2 at the third reading and will be contacting each London mayoral candidate in the run-up to May’s election.
Mr Hurd, MP for Ruislip, Northwood, Pinner, said the tunnel extension would have been the best solution but added: “It is very clear that the committee understood the problems and have pushed HS2 into making some significant changes for the better.”
■ HABITAT: Wildlife at Frays Farm
Meadows is under threat
n SCRUTINY: Members of the select committee visited Hillingdon earlier this year